19. December 2016

Protests against corrupt land reform after axing of Deputy Minister

Angry Keetmanshoop residents yesterday handed over a petition to //Karas governor's special adviser Hansina Christiaan demanding the reinstatement of Bernadus Swartbooi as the deputy land reform minister.
The residents, who marched despite attempts by the police to block them, gave President Hage Geingob until 31 January 2017 to reinstate the deputy minister.

Swartbooi was removed from his job yesterday following comments he made regarding what he said was an unfair resettlement process being implemented by land reform minister Utoni Nujoma.

Geingob gave Swartbooi 24 hours to apologise but he refused to do so. During a meeting held on Tuesday, Geingob told Swartbooi to either apologise or leave office. Although State House said Swartbooi had resigned, he denied this saying instead that Geingob should fire him. Geingob, however, said he had accepted Swartbooi's “verbal resignation”.

The petition said that by settling others on their ancestral land, the government was eliminating the Nama people, who predominately live in the southern regions, from their roots and culture.

“Do not think because Swartbooi is from the Nama tribe and is therefore regarded as insignificant with votes (sic), he can be pushed around. Our votes matter in any election,” the petition read, adding that indigenous minorities should also benefit from the country's wealth.

They claimed traditional leaders from other regions have been allocated shares in date and grape production projects in //Karas during 2013 at the expense of traditional authorities from the region. “While we speak only of tribalism meted out against us, we see how tribalism is practised by the very same comrades that are entrusted with key leadership,” the petition stated.

The march almost failed after the police had said they needed a 24-hour notice before the demonstration can go ahead. Acting //Karas regional police commander David Indongo denied that they wanted to block the demonstration, but that he advised the organisers to postpone the march since they needed to comply with the 24-hour notice rule.
In a separate development, representatives of the Kai//Khaun and other landless communities handed over a petition to the Office of the Prime Minister after the Minister of Land Reform, Utoni Nujoma, has rejected to meet with them. The petition demands acknowledgement of traditional land rights of communities who have been removed from their lands during German and South African colonial rule, like the Nama, OvaHerero, Damara or San. In addition, it calls for the suspension of the present resettlement programme of the government which is called „corrupt, unfair and unjust“ benefitting exclusively the political elite of the country.
Participants in the demonstration also called for pubic hearings in Hardap, Karas, Omaheke, Otjozondjupa, Khomas, Erongo, Oshikoto and Kunene regions where aborigines had been robbed of their land during the colonial era. In addition, they critisised the Ministry of Land Reform because of „rampant corruption, nepotism, ethnic discrimination and tribalism“. This is based on the fact that under Minister Nujoma, people from the Northern areas have repeatedly been given land in the South while claims of traditional residents expelled by colonialism had been ignored.
According to the demonstrants, Deputy Minister Swartbooi was axed only because he had correctly identified this problem and refused to apologise for that. (The Namibian; Allgemeine Zeitung, Windhoek)

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